KENS Chapter 52

Chapter 52 Sword and Sword (2)

Handing over my mithril sword to the soldier standing in front of the waiting room, I slipped inside the room.

Inside, there were at least 20 people sitting on chairs or passing time in different ways. Some were checking the sword provided to them by holding it up towards the sunlight while some were in deep concentration with their eyes closed and some were talking to acquaintances.

To stay as far as possible from them, I sat down on the chair nearest to the wall which didn’t stand out at all.

“haah.”

[What’s wrong?]

“I’m starting to feel nervous.”

[……….I should be the one sighing right now.]

While hearing Ermenhilde’s usual fed up voice, I saw a few more participants enter the room a little while after I did.

A tall man with bright red hair, tanned skin and a face that looked truly like a mercenary, along with a short heighted guy  who was probably the other one’s lacky.

And another familiar person that seemed to be in some sort of quarrel/argument with those two. A woman, dressed far more beautifully than those two, in a blue robe——Ms Francesca. It seems we were in the same waiting room.

It seems she was able to get quite a good rest yesterday as her face looked fresh. But, she seemed to be troubled by the other two. Her usual gentle smile seemed to be stiffening up somewhat.

But still, that red haired merc wasn’t really taller than Ms Francesca. Well, she is pretty taller than the average women of this world after all. Yet, that man looked much bigger than her mostly because he was wearing full armour over his big muscles unlike her.

“I’d overpowered completely if I had to fight someone like that.”

[Only if you stupidly attack him head-on though.]

That’s true I guess. Well, I probably won’t have to fight him though.

But still, it feels so much more at ease when even one of your acquaintances is here. Seeing Ms Francesca here, I felt myself relax a bit.

It seems Souichi and Masaki-chan were in the other waiting room so I was feeling a bit a lonely.

[They seem to be in some kind of argument, you know?]

“yeah, I can see that.”

She still hasn’t noticed me yet. Not knowing how to handle this, she seemed to be simply trying to return a smile somehow. Even her voice when refuting seemed somewhat weak.

Judging by that, the man would probably not fall back at all. In fact, he seemed to be almost enjoying it.

When dealing with such types of guys, it’s a bit problematic to instantly go against them and provoking them even more as well but if you don’t stand strong you would let them get cocky. Especially, in front of a timid woman.

“How lively.”

[How about asking that man if he could share half of his energy with you?]

“fumu, that might be interesting.”

[………..haah.]

Looking at guys like those, you might not be wrong to feel that all mercenaries are rough and rude like that man, I feel.

But I know that not all are like that. But just because there’s one guy like that, all of them get a bad reputation.

Though the room was never silent, but their presence made the room all the more noisy. Maybe he found the noise to be actually nice, he started to speak even louder and rougher.

[Not going to help her?]

“Hmm, what should I do?”

Saying that, I continued to look at Ms Francesca.

I wonder if she’ll able to get rid of him by herself? If it seems impossible, I’ll just go up and talk to her directly but for now, I continued to watch the situation.

Things like these turn to be good experience as well, sometimes. If you were to live as a noble, there won’t be much chances to interact much with mercenaries but the possibility is not zero. After all, nobles hold land and to protect that land from monsters, you have to hire mercs sometimes.

It would be better to know what kind of people consist of mercs. On concentrating to hear them a bit better, I came to know that the red haired man was actually Ms Francesca’s opponent in the first round.

Judging by his body movements, he should be pretty skilled as well. His weapon was a large sword, just like Ms Francesca’s previous opponent yesterday. There was a two-hand sword with almost no decorations resting on his back. That said, it’s not like he’d use that one in the tournament as well. He’d probably have to use one of the large swords prepared by the authorities for the tournament. Though Ms Francesca has gained some experience of fighting against large swords in her previous battle…………this time, her opponent is a person who has fighting as his job, literally, and not a student. He’d be in a completely different level from the student, or the fighters who underestimated her in the round 1 and 2 of the team tournament.

While speaking to Ms Francesca, the man also kept on sending glares towards the rest of the participants in the room. And some did avert their gazes at that as well.

He was bragging about how he was confident of his victory. I guess, he must have a lot of confidence in his own skills to talk like that.

But this was the waiting room of the Coliseum. It would be best to keep those words deep in your heart and was better to show it through results. All he was doing right now was garnering animosity.

[Hou..That man sure seems pretty confident of his victory.]

“It’d be great if he could.”

[……….Should you be saying that?]

Even Ermenhilde reacted to that man’s words. Her words seem to entice me by implying that ‘He’s planning to win against you as well, Renji.’ But since she didn’t say that out loud, I’m gonna pretend I didn’t get her.

In the first place, he has to first fight Ms Francesca before me. It’s as if Emenhilde’s saying that Ms Francesca would definitely lose to that man.

Well, I can’t deny that she does seem to be at a disadvantage against that man.

“Ahn!?”

Did he hear my voice as I responded to Ermenhilde, the red haired man looked towards me. He seemed to be quite angry as well.

Alongside him, Ms Francesca made a surprised face as well as she hid her mouth with her hand. AS expected of a beauty, she looked great even while making such a face.

But still, how the hell did that man even hear me?

The man claimed that he’d win and I said that it’d be great if he could.

………….I didn’t really mean it in an instigating kind of way but it definitely sounds like I did. Probably because recently Feirona and others have started to talk to Ermenhilde as well, I grown a bit lax with my mouth. I’m pretty sure noone other than me and Ms Francesca heard Ermenhilde here.

“Ah, I wasn’t really making fun of you. I’ll apologise if you were offended.”(renji)

[Why do you have to……..um, wasn’t there a better way to say it?]

Before he could saying anything, let’s apologise first. ‘After all it’d be embarrassing to say something like ‘I have a habit of talking to myself’.

And above all, it’s no use stirring up trouble here. If tournament committee member, Utano-san, got a wind of it and decided to warn us, it won’t end well……….Though I feel like I’d be the only who’ll get scolded.

Well in any case, even this guy wouldn’t want to face that in front of so many people.

That’s what I thought but I guess the red haired merc really didn’t find it amusing at all.

He must have thought that he had been made a fool of as he walked towards me with force that as if he was trying to make the earth rumble. As he kicked away the table that was in his way, the participants looked at me with irritated gazes………It’s not like this is my fault, is it?

“Didn’t you just say something really funny?”(redhair)

He stood right in front of me.

His height wasn’t much different than mine but since I was sitting, it ended up with him looking down at me.

He looked like an enraged beast making me confused in deciding how to reply.

But to him, not saying anything must have irritated him even more as he punched the wall I was resting my back on. To have not grimaced even at that, he must be pretty well trained.

“Sorry. I wasn’t really trying to make you angry.”

“Aahn!?”

[Couldn’t you just beat him down right here, right now?]

I’ll be the one who’d end up getting beaten, I feel like. I guess his attitude must be really irritating for Ermenhilde. Well, it’s the same for me as well though.

Even though the tournament was about to start, why do I have to go through something this in the waiting room?

His arm that was currently right beside my face was thicker than even mine. But not in the fatty, unhealthy way. It was truly well trained, muscled arm. My response must have seemed really irritating to him as even blood vessels were popping out on his arm.

Even though the ones I truly enjoy teasing are Ermenhilde, Ms Francesca and Souichi only who give really funny reactions.

“Oi, can you not hear me!?!”

“I can.”(renji)

But still, your face is too close.

I feel like his spit would come on me which would be disgusting.

It seems my feelings showed on my face as he got even more angry with a red face. The other participants, though had full attention towards us, acted like it didn’t concern them and didn’t try to help me out at all.

I feel like crying, seriously. But, oh well, if it was me in their place, I’d act the same though.

“C’mon, the tournament is close right? Why don’t you try and rest your body a bit?”(renji)

“Hah! As if I’d lose to a brat like that. The [Hero]’s disciple? Haha, sounds like the best opponent to raise my fame.”

[Is what he says.]

“No, like I have said a countless time, I have not taught her anything that would make her my disciple, you know……….”

Saying that, I gave a sigh.

But then, suddenly, everyone in the room suddenly went silent. What now? It feels so awkward suddenly.

“Then, you are………?”(redhair)

“Well. My name isn’t ‘you’ so I don’t know who you’re referring to though.”

Only at times like these, my titles come handy. Since my face wasn’t known rumours seemed to have spread quite a lot and it was pretty effective on such random people who try to pick a fight for no reason. This world isn’t made of societies that are advanced in information tech like my previous one and is based more around your own merits and abilities.

As the human who killed the threat that put the world in chaos, the [Demon God]; just that fact alone made others put me on a higher level than their own. Now, as long as I don’t cower too much, like I was right now, it’s more than enough.

“Ms Francesca, how’s your condition?”(renji)

“Ah, yes. I was able to sleep well yesterday.”

“That’s great.”

Averting my gaze from the red haired man, I turned towards Ms Francesca, who was looking at our interchange along with the small heighted man. Looking closely, that man was actually even shorter than Ms Francesca. Well, she really is taller than average though.

“That was misfortunate, eh?”(renji)

“No…….”(fran)

As I moved away without even  meeting my eyes with the red haired man, he simply stepped away making a awkward face. And the short heighted lacky ran away following after him.

I felt like my life span reduced a bit getting threatened like that by heavy muscular man like that one. Since I did something I wasn’t used to, I felt even more tired. Resting my back towards the wall, I sat down beside Ms Francesca.

“Haah. The participants in this tournament sure are hot blooded.”(renji)

[You’re one of those participants as well though?]

“All of my blood was drained away a year back already.”

[Haah.]

While listening to Ermenhilde’s sigh, I turned towards Ms Francesca.

Maybe because she was a bit nervous, her expression was slightly stiff. There was than red haired man’s case as well. I hope she doesn’t get too affected by this. Maybe, it could be that Ms Francesca might not have much immunity against men other than me and Feirona. And even with us, even though we have travelled quite a bit together, I have not heard her make any light/frivolous talk with any of us.

“You okay?”(renji)

“Yes. What about you Renji-sama………”

“I feel like I am about to get crushed from just the pressure.”

[You’re still saying that? How pathetic.]

“fufufu.”

As I spoke such foolish things, Ms Francesca gave a small laugh. Seeing her in a good mood, I also gave a smile as I stood up.

There’s still time till my turn but I should go and choose my weapon already.

“Today, you are not in your armour?”(fran)

“Hm?”

“Yesterday, you were in full armour while with the king, were you not?”

“My fighting style depends more on moving around swiftly rather than holding my ground in one place with heavy armour after all.”

“Well, I know that but……….”

I guess, I really do look stronger when in armour.

Well, I guess there’s no one else who’d take part in the tournament wearing nothing but normal clothes just for the heck of it. But this isn’t a game after all. It’s better to rely on your most trusted way of fighting. Even if you get strong armour or weapon, in the end the thing you can rely on the most is your own body.

[She seems pretty worried for you, you know?]

“Ah, no, how can my worries be..”(fran)

“……So you don’t get worried for me at all?”

“No, it’s………that’s not what I-!”

Well, that’d be sad in its own way but seeing her getting all flustered and embarrassed, I felt calmed down.

But still, since others couldn’t hear Ermenhilde, it’ll look like Ms Francesca was getting embarrassed while talking to me. I wonder what others are thinking.

“Don’t tease her too much.”(renji)

[Aren’t you the one who’s always teasing her though?]

“I’m allowed to.”

“This isn’t fair, Renji-sama……..”(fran)

Ignoring all that, I decided to help Ms Francesca get out of her embarrassment. Her neckline, that’s normally hidden with her hair was currently visible as her hair were tied back with a ribbon and I could see her porcelain white skin clearly tinged in a red shade.

As I gave a small laugh seeing that, I felt like Ms Francesca’s skin became even redder probably because she heard it.

“Ms francesca, what about your weapon?”

“Eh, AH, Ah, I, my weapon is..”

When I asked that trying to change the topic, she looked towards the short sword at her waist.

In a panic she tried to hold it but instead almost dropped it down.

It seems she’s going to use that sword today as well. Going by her match yesterday, that sword wasn’t really very dependable. That said, it’d be useless to change her sword right now as she won’t get used to using the new one so fast.

I wouldn’t care much since it’s me and Mururu on the front lines but when it’s one on one, I felt like her sword was slightly lacking.

“Will you be fine?”

“I have had this with me from the start of my journey after all.”

[I see. So that sword is your partner, eh?]

“……….even though you get angry when I say that.”(renji)

[fufu. It’s not like that.]

Liar.

While I said that inside my mind, Ms Francesca gave a laugh as well.

Done with that, I walked towards the weapons kept in the room while scratching my head.

There were others choosing weapons as well but they all gave way for me. I guess I stood out a bit too much due to that red haired guy.

While feeling a bit awkward, I picked up an orthodox double-edge straight sword. It’s blade has been dulled but it’s length and width was close to the mithril sword I had been carrying around for the past few days.

After that, I tried a few more but the one I chose first seemed to be the easiest to use. Thinking that, I attached it to my waist.

When, the red haired man came beside me. Does he have something more to say, I looked at him but he silently looked at the weapons and picked up a heavy looking large sword.

In terms of just pure strength, I’m pretty sure I’d lose to him.

“Heroes, are pretty thin huh.”

“Hm?”(renji)

“I said, you’re pretty thin.”

It seems he realized that I was looking at his muscles.

But still, to be called thin……….

“How nostalgic.”(renji)

“Huh?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

I recalled being told that so many times back in the past.

Normally, I think people gain quite a bit of muscle when they train a lot but for some reason, I had a constitution that didn’t let me gain much muscles.

It’s not like I have none. But it’s not like this man or O’brien-san who focus on strength unlike me and Masaki-chan who focus on speed. It’s that kind of difference but well, as a man, it’s pretty envious to not have a muscular body.

At least, I was envious before because I remember specifically training just to gain some more muscle.

That said I never did gain more muscle than what was required for me to swing a sword properly.

“I, will defeat your disciple.”

“Is that so? Good luck.”

Having chosen my sword, I turned my back at him.

I could feel his bloodlust making my expression almost go stiff. If it was the past me, the actually really thin me, I would honestly be shivering right now.

But still, oh well. It feels weird to say that I’ve gotten to used to feeling bloodlusts now.

“Then, will you fight me as well?”

“hah?”(renji)

But, while I was mocking my own self, he said something like that in an excited voice.

I ended up turning reflexively only to see him stare with a cool gaze.

“You’re really thin.”

“I heard that before.”(renji)

“In the past, I used to think that you’d be a bigger guy.”

“Is that so? Well, sorry for being thin.”

He’s probably talking about the time when we were still on our journey. Maybe back then, we might have met somewhere. I have no memory of that though. I have literally met hundreds and thousands of mercenaries while travelling after all. If I wasn’t really close with them, I won’t recall who was who.

But still, he sure is not holding himself back.

He’s probably strong……..even more than Ms Francesca maybe.  I could feel it from his confidence and way of talking.

[You just got told.]

“I’m used to it.”

[Like I said, couldn’t you change that? Like by showing your skill, or that you’re actually pretty amazing after all or something like that.]

Ermenhilde, unusually, tried to tease me a bit.

It’s probably not just my imagination that her voice seemed a bit worried as well. As usual, she’s easy to understand.

“Your ability is not something you have to talk about. The ones who would decide how skilled I am are the spectators.”

[fufu, that’s true.]

“Saying that you’re strong only to lose later is nothing but shameful.”

Even I would be unable to bear such an embarrassment.

[I think only Renji can handle that much talk-down without getting angry.]

“I just don’t really care about it.”

[Though I do think you should care a bit.]

“…….seriously.”

As I returned back to Ms Francesca after choosing my sword, she was currently in the process of retying her hair with her ribbon.

Her beautiful golden hair were tied behind her back and then flowed down in a single bunch. Since I had seen her in any other hairstyle other than with her usual loose open hair, it felt really fresh.

It’s amazing how much a woman can change just from changing their hairstyle.

While I was thinking that, her gaze turned towards me. Her pure white skin at her neck almost felt too dazzling to see.

“Is something wrong?”(fran)

‘Nah, just thinking that I haven’t seen that ribbon of yours before.”

“Ah, yesterday, Mururu-chan and Feirona-san chose it for me.”

[I see.]

Along with Ermenhilde, I said ‘I see’ as well.

The colour contrast between her white ribbon and golden hair mixed to turn into a gentle colour making those who looked at it feel calm. It’s amazing that Feirona and Mururu actually knew what to chose that would suit her best.

But still,

“It really suits you.”(renji)

“Really? Thank you.”

[Yeah. It looks great on you.]

“Yes. I got a ribbon that matched Mururu-chan’s hair and in return I bought her a golden ribbon that matched mine.”

“Wait, that’s weird.”(renji)

“Eh?”

She got that ribbon as a reward for her performance in the team tournament right? Is it okay to gift something back for that………….?

Well, if she’s happy then I have no right to say anything.

“I see.”(renji)

[Even a beastwoman, who has lived only half age of what Renji has, is more resourceful than Renji.]

“you, where the hell did you learn to talk like that?”

Why is it that her voice, that was worried for me just a while ago had now turned into a sharp cold blade?

Well true, long hair would be in the way when fighting  and even when living on as an adventurer, or even as living as a noble, a ribbon is very good gift I think……….but, why do I feel so left out?

No, well, recently I have been really busy so I haven’t been able to meet Feirona and others much either so I can’t really complain.

It is kind of my fault but………somehow, I feel a bit bad for doing that. I felt my face go stiff from the slight guilt of having not met them at all for the past few days.

“What’s wrong, Renji-sama?”

“—–nah..”

[haah.]

And once again, my partner gave a very human-like sigh. How many times is she going to sigh in just one day?

“As expected, my partner can only be you, Ermenhilde.”

[Is that so?]

My partner’s voice was cold.

Hearing our talk, ms Francesca gave a giggle.

“As usual, you two are really close huh”(fran)

“……Eh?”(renji)

[………..]

Just that single word alone made Ermenhilde’s mood become even worse. Well, I knew this’d happen though

But if I could get Ms Francesca to laugh like this, I’d even happily bow down to Ermenhilde later.

Her nervousness seems to have disappeared completely now. And the smile she had right now was the same she showed when she was completely relaxed while we were travelling together.

At times like these, Mururu’s company would have suited her better but if I were to let a non-participant in here, it’d only look like I was abusing my status and authority.

In the first place, I hate standing out like that. Not to mention, it’d only cause more trouble towards Ms Francesca as well.

“It’d be nice if my sword could talk like Ermenhilde-sama as well.”(fran)

“Really? I have to bear with her nitpicking you know?”

[That’s because you’re undisciplined.]

“Well, it is a plus that it’s not lonely even when alone.”

[Muu.]

“Ah but still, her nitpicking is…”

[Like I said, that’s——]

Ms Francesca looked at our exchange with amusement. Back then, she was pretty formal towards even Ermenhilde but she’s gotten pretty relaxed around her nowadays. She’s gotten used to it, I guess you could say that. That’s why she said that, I think.

A talking weapon.

True, that might sound like something you’d really want. It’s pretty chuuni, I guess.

I recall both Souichi and Koutarou were really excited about Eru at first. Ms Francesca might have a different reason though.

“But Ermenhilde is my partner. That alone, I won’t give to even you, Ms Francesca.”(renji)

[Of course. I am only Renji’s–.]

“–Partner.”

[–Weapon.]

Our usual dialogue. I can’t even count how many times we’ve had this same conversation——we’re both stubborn like children. On this topic alone, we won’t give in to each other no matter what.

I want Ermenhilde as my partner and she wants me to treat her as a weapon.

But, this is just fine.

Because we’re like this, we have fun togther. Even though we want such completely polar opposite things, I trust ermenhilde from the bottom of my heart. And she trusts me back as well.

“fufufu.”

Seeing our exchange, that she must have seen many times already in the past few months, Ms Francesca simply laughed.

“Renji-sama.”

“hm?”

“I hope we can fight in the 2nd round.”

“Eh?”

[Hm?]

When she said that, both me and Ermenhilde made a stupid sound. Even Ms Francescsa herself looked at us surprised at that.

“Is my 2nd matchup against Ms Francesca!?!”(renji)

“Why are you so surprised at that!?”(fran)

[Why are both of you so surprised? That said, I am a bit surprised as well.]

“No, who cares whether you are surprised or not?”(renji)

[Muu.]

But really, I tilted my head in confusion. What the hell was Utano-san thinking when making the tournament table?

Beside me, Ms Francesca was making a sad face.

“Only a little more is fine but, it’d be great if you could notice me a bit more.”(fran)

[Seriously. I’m sorry that he lacks such resourcefulness.]

“Why the hell are you apologising?”(renji)

I’ll cry, goddamnit.

Ahh………Really, I have not been seeing anything around me.

I just think about myself and am truly become indifferent towards others. Even though I myself am completely dependent on others. I had not realized it at all.

O’brien-san, Masaki-chan. I was worried about those two and didn’t think about anything else. How narrow-sighted of me. Really, the world I look at is really small.

“What happened, Renji-sama?”

Getting worried about me who was drooping his shoulders, Ms Francesca asked me so.

Her voice was brimming with kindness.

“Nah. It’d be great if both of us could win through to the 2nd round.”(renji)

“Yes!”

I’m pretty sure she knows who my opponent is. That’s why, she must have been worried.

So that she could fight me in the second round. AS a student as an adventurer.

I’m pretty sure that after she graduates from the academy, Ms Francesca will have to quit being an adventurer. As a beautiful and skilled noble, there was no reason to live as something risky like an adventurer.

That’s why, at this last stage, at least—–she wants to fight against her comrade with whom she has been travelling for so long. I’m sure that after that, she’d be able to part ways with a smile. The life of an adventurer is a constant cycle of meetings, farewells and reunions. Feeling a bit sad, we both went silent.

As if they had been waiting for it, my name was announced.

“Ah.”

The voice that came from beside me was filled with anxiousness.

“I’ll be waiting for you, in the second round.”(renji)

That’s why, I said that.

But still, the anxiety and concern in her eyes didn’t disappear.

So I brought out Ermenhilde from my pocket and handed it over to her.

“Keep it. As a good luck charm. It’s an item blessed by the gods themselves.”(renji)

“Is it okay?”

[Yeah. Will you be fine alone?]

“I’m not a kid anymore.”(renji)

As usual, you talk like a mother in the weirdest of places.

“It’s a substitute for the ribbon. After the tournament ends, I’ll give you a proper gift as well.”(renji)

“Eh………”

“it’s a promise.”

Aah, I muttered in my head.

I ended up saying that. I ended up promising again.

Promises are heavy. It’s to say them but difficult to fulfil. If you are unable to fulfil them, you betray not just the person you promised but yourself as well. Both end up hurt.

Even though I’m supposed to know that already, still I—– made a promise.

Being led to the entrance, I thought.

“Haah.”

I got another reason to not lose.

The sword on my waist felt so fragile that I couldn’t calm down.

At times like these, normally, Ermenhilde would make some light talk and calm me but she wasn’t here either.

Haah—

Seriously, how lonely.

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